As we cultivate an ear for God, we enjoy an intimate relationship with Him. What does hearing from God sound like? How do you know? Some describe it as a prompting or a whisper or a knowing deep inside. It’s only those very close, intimate relationships with other humans that we come to an intuitive point that we can read between the lines; that we have a “knowing” about them; that we are sensitive to their whispers that might not even be audible. The same is true with God. The first step is to know His word; to spend time in His presence; to be aware of His leading in our lives.
Many years ago I attended a leadership conference at Willow Creek Community church. I sat on the edge of my seat devouring every word Bill Hybels shared about leadership and ministry. God had called me to ministry with a deep yearning. He had gifted me with a desire to lead – I couldn’t NOT do it!
During one session, he told the story of Samuel and shared a poem he had learned as a young boy. I have kept those words in my heart as I have drawn close to God in an intimate relationship over the years.
I encourage you to read 1 Samuel 2 and 3. Hannah had prayed for a son and promised God she would dedicate him to the Lord. God blessed her and she presented her very young son, Samuel, to the Priest, Eli, for apprenticeship.
We are told in this story that in those days it was rare for anyone to hear from the Lord. One night after Samuel had gone to bed, he woke up thinking Eli was calling him. He went to Eli and said, “You called me. Here I am.” Eli was confused and told Samuel to go back to bed because he hadn’t called him. This happened again….and a third time.
Finally, Eli realized what was happening:
So he said to Samuel, “Go and lie down again, and if someone calls again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed. And the Lord came and called as before, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel replied, “Speak, your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9-10
Although the Lord gave Samuel a prophetic message that would impact a nation, what I love about this story is how Samuel learned to listen and acknowledge God. It has taken me years to attune to God’s intimate interaction with me. How I treasure this relationship.
Here is the beautiful poem, part of a hymn, Bill Hybels shared that has stayed with me for many many years now:
“Oh! Give me Samuel’s ear, An open ear, O Lord, Alive and quick to hear Each whisper of Thy Word; Like him to answer to Thy call And to obey Thee first of all.” (A hymn by James Drummond Burns)
Bill shares five filters to help us evaluate if the whisper, prompting or knowing we sense is actually from the Spirit. Whew! And he encourages us to take action no matter how confusing, challenging or unsettling a prompting is, as long as it passes these filters:
- Is the prompting truly from God? Might it be your own desire or a “should” you have heard?
- Is it consistent with scripture? Is it aligned with God’s character and His word?
- Is it wise? God’s wisdom is greater than ours so while we might not be able to see how it is possible, we must check to see if matches God’s wisdom.
- Is it also aligned with your own “wiring”? Does it resonate somewhere deep inside? Is it consistent with how God designed you?
- What do the people you trust most think about it? You may not take everything to another but there ARE certain promptings you would run by someone you trust IF it means a big step.
If you’d like more description of these filters you can go to Bill Hybels’ video that describes them in his words:
The main point I want to share with you is to be willing to listen to God’s promptings in you and cultivate an ear for God. I hope you will keep this poem where you can read it and pray. And may you have “an open ear, alive and quick to hear each whisper of Thy call and to obey thee first of all.”